Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and even though it was written many years ago, it is still very popular today. Many people can relate to the play as it still covers popular issues in modern society such as young love and violence between different groups of people.
It is one of Shakespeare’s earlier tragedies and we can tell this because the protagonist is not completely to blame for his downfall because there are external influences such as fate and the family feud. This is different to Shakespeare’s later tragedies, where the protagonist has a main weakness and this causes them to fall from power due to their own fault alone. Romeo and Juliet is not as developed as this and although Romeo has the weakness of being tempestuous, there are also external influences.
Act 1 Scene 5 is dramatically significant because it is a fast moving scene. The servants are rushing around and trying to get everything ready for the ball. The scene is domestic and shows that the ball is important because it shows family unity. A ball has not happened for a long time in the family so they are trying to make sure everything is perfect. The play was written at the time of patriarchal society, where men had all the power. Lord Capulet holds the ball to show his own wealth and authority as well as to show that he is a generous person. This links to the fact that marriages were arranged at that time and is another reason for Lord Capulet to hold the ball. He wanted to find a suitable husband for Juliet and by holding a ball to show his wealth, other wealthy people would attend and this would hopefully find Juliet a ‘suitable’ husband. This is shown in the part of the scene where the nurse talks about ‘chinks’.
“I tell you, he that can lay hold of her
Shall have the chinks.”
By saying this she is telling Romeo that Juliet’s future husband will only be suitable and accepted if he is wealthy.
The scene is also significant because it ends the exposition. By the end of the scene the audience knows who all the characters are and how their relationships are linked. This affects the rest of the play and after this scene, the conflict can begin because the audience are prepared and understand who each character is.
The themes are also highlighted in this scene and that is another reason why Act 1 Scene 5 is dramatically significant. Love and passion is one of the main themes. The play is very violent, but the love between Romeo and Juliet contrasts with this, and when the characters are together the scene becomes peaceful and calm. Romeo talks about Juliet as a beautiful person and says
“O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!”
Not only does this show his instant love and attraction towards her, it also links to the imagery of light and darkness. At the start of the play Romeo is sad and depressed but when he sees Juliet she ‘brightens’ up his mood and this shows a contrast between light
Helen Tiffney 10DM Abbey Grange High School 16th November 2005
and dark. This contrast is used a lot in the scene and Romeo uses similes to describe Juliet, for example
“A rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear.”
And he also uses the metaphor
“A snowy dove trooping with crows.”
These similes make what Romeo is saying seem romantic and make the scene rich with imagery. This is important because when the play would first have been preformed, there were no female actors. A boy would have played the part of Juliet, so it was important for the language used in the play to show her as very beautiful because it would not have been obvious to the audience.
This part of the scene also links to religion. When Romeo and Juliet meet words like “palmer”, “shrine” and “pray” are all used and these all link to religion. Also Romeo compares praying to kissing and says that you can pray with your lips as well as your hands.
“Let lips do what hands do”
Religion was very important to people in those times and this is reflected in Romeo using this fact to show Juliet how important he thinks it is to kiss her.
The scene also highlights the theme of fate. The Prologue at the beginning of the play describes Romeo and Juliet as “a pair of starcrossed lovers” and this links to what people believed in at the time of the play. They believed that the stars and planets affected how people behaved and what would happen in their lives. Juliet says
“My grave is like to be my wedding bed”,
and this links to what is said in the prologue.
“Their death marked love”,
suggests that the pair are doomed from the beginning and later in the play we see that both the Prologue and Juliet were right.
Fate also links to the family feud because the families have been against each other for hundreds of years, long before Romeo and Juliet were born. So therefore their romance was destined to be difficult and go wrong. The family feud links to violence as well because the families are strong enemies and often fight. We see this earlier in the play in the street fight and also in Act 1 Scene 5. Romeo goes to the ball and Tybalt sees him. This makes him angry and he says
“To strike him dead I hold it not a sin”.
This shows that Tybalt feels no love towards the Montague family and would be quite happy to see Romeo die. He is all set to get Romeo out of the ball but Lord Capulet goes against this and stops Tybalt because he does not want his ball to be ruined. Also he has heard that Romeo is a good man and he did not see the point in disrupting the ball when Romeo wasn’t causing any harm. Lord Capulet gets angry at Tybalt and we can tell this because he changes from using the friendly pronoun “thou” to the formal “you” when he is talking to him. This shows that his mood towards Tybalt has changed. For example he says
“What Goodman boy, I say he shall, go to!
Am I the master here, or you? Go to!”
Helen Tiffney 10DM Abbey Grange High School 16th November 2005
Here Lord Capulet is saying that he is the master not Tybalt and he insults him by calling him a “Goodman boy” which means that he is not a gentleman.
The scene ends in rhyming couplets and this is because at the time when this play would have first been preformed there would have been no curtains or lighting effects to show that the scene had ended. By using rhyming couplets, it let the audience know that the scene had finished.
Overall Act 1 Scene 5 is dramatically significant for many reasons. It shows family unity and generosity as well as ending the exposition. The scene relates to the themes and shows the instant attraction between Romeo and Juliet from the moment they meet.